West German Art Pottery
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West German Art Pottery is essentially a term describing the time period of 1949-1990 and became the early way to describe the pottery because the country of origin was often the only "mark" on the base. Even though company names are now better known, and many items are attributed to specific makers, the more generic term "West German pottery" remains in common use. "Fat Lava" is a popular term that refers to a fairly small subcategory of glazes but is all too often improperly used as a synonym for W. German pottery. While, World War II ended in 1945, the next 4 years were the "zone" era with the country into the "US Zone", "Russian/Soviet Zone", "British Zone", and "French Zone", and it was 1949 when the East/West division replaced the zones.
After the defeat of Nazi Germany, it took a few years to rebuild the German pottery industry. During its heyday from the 1950s until the 1970s, over 100 pottery and porcelain companies and studio potters were actively producing art pottery in West Germany. Scheurich, Carstens, Bay, ES, and Dümler & Breiden were the most prolific producers, and while production began slowing in the early 1970s, a wide variety of art pottery was produced well in the 1980s.
West German Art Pottery is well known for its great variety of forms and expressive colors. The pottery began getting attention in the mid 1990s, and interest has been growing every since. Horst Makus published several books in the late 90s and after, but those are in German and limited to the period up to about 1962. Mark Hill published "Fat Lava", which is an expanded catalog from the exhibition done by Hill and Graham Cooley. Kevin Graham has produced a variety of cds, and Graham and Henrik Aaroe co-produced "German Ceramic 1960-1990" in 2016. However, published work remains scarce and limited in scope. There are also a variety of essays and videos on the Gin-For's Odditiques site. However, a great deal remains undocumented, and some of the early research had significant errors. Attributions continue to be corrected, so information should be checked to make sure it's up to date.
The terms Fat Lava and West German Art Pottery are often used interchangeably, but technically have a different meaning. Fat Lava refers specifically to a type of thick glazes that gives the object a thick lava-like look. This type of glaze was commonly used in this period by German pottery manufacturers. The term Fat Lava itself though is of a much more recent date. It has been suggested that the term Fat Lava first emerged with an exhibition curated by Dr. Graham Cooley during the King's Lynn Arts Festival in 2006, but the term was actually being used by sellers in Germany at least a decade earlier and may actually be due to a slightly faulty computer translation that came up with "fat" when the more accurate term would be "thick". The precise origin is likely to remain uncertain, but it definitely predates the fat lava exhibition and related catalog.
Names of well-known producers
- Mark Hill, Fat Lava, West German Ceramics of the 1960s & 70s. ISBN 0-9552-8654-9 (in English)
- Dr. Michael P. Thomas, Deutsche Keramik und Porzellane der 60er & 70er Jahre. ISBN 3-00-017329-3 (In German)
- Nicolas Trembley, Sgrafo vs Fat Lava. ISBN 978-3-03764-163-7
- 8 Things You Need to Know About West German Art Pottery http://www.antiquetrader.com/articles/feature-stories/west_german_art_pottery_facts
- Website dedicate to Fat Lava and West German Art Pottery
- They Call It Fat Lava (Introduction to Volcanic and Lava Glazes)
- Interview with Mark Hill - Author of Fat Lava: West German Ceramics of the 1960s & 70s